ATEX is derived from the term ‘ATmosphere EXplosibles’ and it is a mandatory certification for all products to be sold across Europe. ATEX consists of two European Directives that mandate the type of equipment and work conditions allowed in a hazardous environment.
ATEX 95 Directive
The ATEX 2014/34/EC Directive, also known as ATEX 95, applies to the manufacture of all equipment and products that are used in potentially explosive environments. The ATEX 95 Directive states the basic health and safety requirements that all explosion proof equipment and safety products have to meet in order to be traded in Europe.
ATEX 137 Directive
The ATEX 99/92/EC Directive, also known as ATEX 137, is aimed at protecting the health and safety of employees who are constantly exposed to potentially explosive working environments. The directive states:
Basic requirements to protect the safety and health of workers
Classification of areas that may contain a potentially explosive atmosphere
Areas that contain a potentially explosive atmosphere have to be accompanied with a warning symbol
IECEx stands for the certification by the International Electrotechnical Commission for Explosive Atmospheres. To be IECEx certified, all products must go through a monitored process by the International Electrotechnical Commission to ensure that they meet the minimum safety requirements. This process will determine if the products can be used in hazardous or potentially explosive locations.
Being IECEx certified allows the products and equipment to be traded across countries without having to be re-tested and re-certified for every country. As different countries adhere to different safety standards, products from one country have to be re-tested in another country to abide by its guidelines for use in hazardous areas. Therefore, IECEx acts as a common set of safety standards amongst participating countries certification which helps to reduce testing and certification costs for manufacturers. Participating countries in the IECEx Scheme include the majority of countries in Europe, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, United States and South Africa.
Key Differences between ATEX and IECEx
The main difference between ATEX and IECEx is that ATEX certification only applies for countries in the EU while IECEx certification is accepted globally. Hence, the IECEx certification is more widely recognised and accepted compared to ATEX certification.
Another key difference between ATEX and IECEx certifications is that ATEX is law-driven while IECEx is standard-driven. This means that compliance to the standards is not mandatory for ATEX certification, but it is required for IECEx. As a result of this, the manufacturer is accountable for the entire ATEX certification process for products. On the other hand, the responsibility lies with the external certification party to ensure that the necessary products are IECEx certified.
One fundamental way that ATEX differs from IECEx is the way each certification is set up. The IECEx certification consists of four schemes: IECEx Equipment Scheme, IECEx Conformity Mark License, IECEx Services Scheme, and IECEx Certified Persons Scheme. These four schemes are to ensure that every aspect of the products conforms to the IECEx standard, from the quality of the Ex equipment itself to the competency of the personnel who will be handling such equipment in hazardous environments. On the other hand, the ATEX certification only consists of 2 directives: ATEX 95 and ATEX 137.
Furthermore, ATEX certification can be based on an IECEx test report, but an ATEX documentation may not necessarily support an IECEx certificate. Therefore, it has become a common industry requirement for products to contain both ATEX and IECEx certificates.